Douglas P. Welbanks: Tim Hortons spills coffee on workers' wage increase

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      Unions, perhaps best of all, remind us there are two sides to employment—employers and employees.

      There are many types of employers—public sector, private sector, commission sales, fast-food outlets, trades, service, hotel, retail sales, banking, good and bad, and the list goes on.

      But there are only two types of employees—union and nonunion.

      Forty years of complacency and credit-funded affluence have softened the Robber Baron scar tissue of worker exploitation. A rich blend of ideology mixed with consumerism today pits union workers against nonunionized workers.

      Many believe unionized workers are fat and lazy and get too many benefits while the nonunionized workers believe they are better, harder working, and more productive. The anger from nonunion workers really escalates after they sail into retirement without a corporate pension and suffer tremendously in poverty.

      The recent attack against nonunion employees launched by Tim Hortons in Ontario cries, for an aggressive response—something like unionization.

      The raison d’être for a union couldn’t be better advertised or more aptly exposed by the actions of angry millionaires who decided to punish their employees for a hike in the minimum wage instituted by the provincial government, which, by the way, is a long way from a decent livable wage complete with health benefits, paid lunch, and coffee breaks.

      It's a light year or two away from the profits these workers helped to create for their wealthy employers. This stains the popular company’s public image with mean-spirited employer-employee relations that leave 350 workers without jobs.

      This could spell a renewal for unionization in a world that faces endless cutbacks and a lack of job security for employees earning minimum wages.

      It may be time for the union movement to dust itself off and come to the rescue.

      Canada used to be a place of decent wages and a coveted standard of living. But we’ve been losing it over the last 40 years as wages and benefits have not kept up with the cost of living, the cost to raise children, the cost of housing, and the cost of postsecondary education.

      The nation has slipped into a shocking state of indebtedness—especially consumer debt which currently totals $595 billion excluding mortgages, as reported by the Bank of Canada in December 2017.

      Unions must undergo a renewal as well, to revisit their purposes, answer criticisms regarding productivity (where they exist), and improve communication with their members to become decisive and relevant.

      Governments and corporations need to be reminded about the sleeping giant that changed North America in the 20th century and brought the eight-hour work day and all the benefits that most employees take for granted today (by both union and nonunion workers).

      Douglas P. Welbanks is a former director of debtor assistance and debt collection for the B.C. government and the author of several books, including Unbreakable: The Ujjal Dosanjh Story and Julius Seizure: The Secret World of Bankruptcy, Debt Collection and Student Loans.
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